Speech-Language Pathologists work with people who have speech, voice and swallowing disorders due to injury, stroke, or developmental issues. This particular health care career involves close work with patients and their families to address language and speech problems. To be successful in this occupation, you need focus and concentration skills and the ability to work well with people.
Description of health care career information and the daily work:
Speech-Language Pathologists (also known as speech therapists or speech clinicians) work with conditions related to communication and swallowing. In the area of communication, they diagnose and treat people who cannot make sounds related to speech, cannot produce clear and understandable words and those who have trouble communicating with language. They treat those who have difficulty with speech rhythm, stuttering, pitch and communication. Speech-Language Pathologists also address cognitive communication challenges such as attention, memory, and problem solving disorders. Finally, Speech-Language Pathologists assist people who have difficulty swallowing or inhaling without choking.
Disorders addressed by Speech-Language Pathologists occur in a variety of ways including: stroke, brain injury or deterioration, leaning disabilities, cerebral palsy, cleft palate, mental retardation or emotional problems.
Speech-Language Pathologists use tests and assessment instruments to analyze and diagnose the nature of the disorder. Based on the diagnosis, they create an individual treatment plan for each patient that may include the use of external communication devices, sign language, muscle strengthening exercises, and strategies for effective communication. They keep records of the patient’s evaluation, treatment plan, and progress. They work closely with the patient’s families to help them understand how to best communicate with the patient and also team up with social workers, psychologists, teachers and medical staff involved with the patient.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, half of Speech-Language Pathologists work in an educational setting such as a pre-school, elementary school and a secondary school level. Others work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, nursing homes and home health care services. A small number of professionals in this occupation are self-employed and contract out to hospitals, doctor’s offices and other health care facilities.
Being a Speech-Language Pathologist is not a physically demanding job, but it does require a tremendous amount of concentration, attention to detail and excellent listening skills. Progress toward improving communication can be slow and frustrating for many people, so patience is also an important characteristic for this work. Those who do well in this occupation are individuals who can work well with people under difficult circumstances and have good communication skills themselves.
Education Requirements, Licensure/Certification:
To work as a Speech-Language Pathologist, you must have a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology at a program accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology. Most states also require a passing grade on the national exam in speech-language pathology and licensure in the field in order to practice this profession.
Graduate programs cover higher level courses in anatomy, physiology, language and swallowing disorders, as well as supervised clinical training in communication disorders. Advanced certification may be acquired through the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) offered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. A person must have a graduate degree, 400 hours of clinical supervision, complete a 36 week postgraduate clinical fellowship, and pass the Praxis Series examination to obtain this certification.
If you are thinking about applying to a Speech-Language Pathology program, your high school courses should be heavy in anatomy, physiology, health science, and psychology.
The full-time median annual earning for certified Speech-Language Pathologists nationally in 2004 was $52,410. The salary is slightly higher in offices of health practitioners. In 2005, the median hourly rate was $27.88 and $56,850 for the mean annual salary.
Career Path and/or Opportunities for Growth:
Speech-Language Pathologists may work in a variety of clinical and educational settings. As professionals gain more experience in the field, there are opportunities for self-employed consulting work and research.
The employment outlook for Speech-Language Pathologists is expected to grow due to the increasing aging population prone to medical conditions that result in speech, language and swallowing problems. Young children are also a growing target group for this profession due to earlier diagnosis and treatment of speech and language problems.
American Speech-Language Hearing Association